Carley Perez used to take care of patients when she was a home care worker at a nonprofit health care organization called the Center for Family Support. The 26-year-old who started working right after graduation wasn’t afraid of the intimate moments home care workers often encountered with patients.
“I have changed adult diapers. Cleaned penises. You have to expect nudity,” Perez told HuffPost, emphasizing on how she enjoyed caring for adults with developmental disabilities.
However, one horrible experience changed everything around for Perez. She was supposed to help an elderly man with his daily chores like cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping and just to be there in case something unforeseen happens. But he tried to sexually abuse her and when she tried protecting herself, her employer fired Perez.
She is now suing the company.
One of Perez’s patient, identified only as “T,” who was 6 feet, 5 inches tall and weighed 300 pounds, made Perez really uncomfortable. It all started last year, when “T” kept making crude remarks at the woman.
Perez only made around $13 an hour, but she still tried working with the lewd old man, in hopes of making enough money to pursue a degree in nursing.
That didn’t happen.
The man kept making crude remarks at the home care worker. Perez alleges she kept her company informed of his actions. After complaining several times, she was finally transferred to another patient who lived in the same building as “T.”
However, over the Memorial Day weekend, Perez’s supervisor called her to let he know she had to go to her former charge’s apartment to cover a midnight shift.
When Perez went into his studio apartment, she was shocked to find out “T” had turned off all the lights, while the TV was on. He then sat down on the couch and started masturbating, according to the lawsuit.
Perez told “T” she was leaving him for some alone time and stepped outside for a while. But when she went back in the apartment, “T” got out of the bathroom, naked, with his penis in his hand.
“I know you like this,” he said, putting his scrotum on her arm.
“Once his skin touched mine, I knew I couldn’t deal with this,” Perez recalled.
She was, naturally, frightened and distressed. She called her supervisor, according to the lawsuit, but since it was 5 a.m. in the morning, the supervisor didn’t pick up.
Perez waited for her to get back because care workers are not allowed to just walk out. They can’t leave a patient alone. But after an hour passed, she decided to leave.
Hours later, her manager got in touch with her, but instead of sympathizing with her employee for the ordeal she faced, the manager put the blame on Perez.
“What could you have done to prevent it?” she asked Perez, according to the lawsuit.
“She made it seem like it was my fault,” Perez recalled. “I expected compassion. Or at least some sympathy.”
Later, the company fired Perez – because she escaped from a sexual harasser.
Although, the global reaction to the powerful #MeToo campaign, which not only exposed the magnitude of sexual harassment and abuse women face across the world but also encouraged them to speak up – the movement is far from reality for home care workers and nurses.
As, these workers are vulnerable to the people they are supposed to care for – their patients.
But they never get a chance to come forward, plus there isn’t much data on their cases of harassments. Almost 12 percent of the sexual harassment charges filed at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 2005 to 2015 were by health care and social services sector employees.
The company Perez worked for could have taken measures to prevent their employees from going through such trauma. They could have hired a male homecare worker for “T.” But all they did was fire a passionate homecare worker who was just trying to keep herself safe from something horrible.
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Pixabay, Unclelkt